Mind-Body Dualism and the Two Cultures

Edward Slingerland

in Creating Consilience

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199794393
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919338 | DOI:

Series: New Directions in Cognitive Science

Mind-Body Dualism and the Two Cultures

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The distinction between the humanities and the natural sciences is often described in terms of two types of description, “thick” versus “thin,” or two modes of apprehension, “interpretation” (Verstehen) versus “explanation” (Erklären). This chapter argues that, although it is rarely made explicit, these distinctions are themselves fundamentally based upon the metaphysical assumption of mind-body dualism: humanistic meaning cannot be captured by physical description because it involves the mind, which belongs to an ontological realm separate and independent from the realm of the merely physical or bodily. One of the primary rationales for bridging the science-humanities divide is that, in light of work over the past few decades in various branches of the cognitive sciences, the mind-body dualism is growing increasingly empirically untenable. However, it would also appear that such dualism is a human cognitive default, which means that, for creatures like us, the chain of science-humanities integration will never be seamless: We will always feel a jolt when we cross from the physical to the mental, from the merely biological to the human, from ultimate evolutionary reasons to proximate psychological mechanisms. Understanding this fact will help us to see why the humanities-science divide continues to prove so difficult to negotiate, as well as why something like this divide will always have some traction in human psychology.

Keywords: consilience; vertical integration; two cultures; Verstehen; mind-body dualism

Chapter.  7369 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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